Should you lift weights every day? This post answers this question I get regularly enough that I need to clarify what is “lifting” and what works. Especially now, while we want routine and a channel for the adrenaline. There’s never been a better time to focus on strength training. It’s a positive use of small bit of your time.
Known for reducing anxiety, symptoms of depression, boosting mood and energy, increasing strength, stamina, and improving sleep – only to name a few of the side effects of “exercise is medicine.” Read on for the right dose for you right now.
Spoiler alert!! In case you’re in a hurry, here’s the answer: There is greater positive hormonal response with full body strength training routines twice a week than lifting different body parts daily.
I’ll focus on the science of why this is true not opinion, though yes, it’s what I do. I want a body build with art and science, not stubborn opinion that begs injury and lacks results. Don’t you?
But I get it. We like to be right! If you’ve done something for years, and in fact, maybe you competed in a figure competition and you want that body back, you’d be tempted to do what worked.
Yet, there’s this.
Body & Figure Competitors (and trainers who were)
That grueling schedule and eating chicken breast, egg whites, and napping in the afternoon due to lack of carbs that leaves you so tired you can’t keep your eyes open? You can’t sustain it. So your five minutes on stage is not really what any woman wants.
She wants to look good when she steps out of the shower and grabs the towel. When the lights are on in the bedroom she wants to feel confident. She doesn’t have time to obsess about spending hours in the gym daily, not missing or screwing up the entire schedule and putting her 50-something body at risk for muscular imbalance.
I know, but… there are the pictures of the 40-something sculpted athletes and they have routines that you can do. Guess what? I get it! I’ve downloaded them too. But who has that kind of time? And who wants to be vegan to boot? And who wants to risk injury doing exercises that do not help you be functionally fit for life now or in the next 3 decades? (and personally I’m going for 5 aren’t you?)
Let me remind you of an evil little secret. If weight loss requires X, weight loss (fat loss or lean gain) maintenance equals X +. So if you do something to lose weight like slashing calories and burning x amount of calories you’ve got to realistically be prepared to do more of it or in this case to maintain a body you spend hours a day strength training to get you have to continue to do it or expect you’re going to rebound with some muscle loss and fat regain. Invest time in finding the right program rather than time following the wrong program. Make sense? It’s measure twice, cut once.
It’s About You
So there you have it. I’ve let my personal opinion leak out. That either made you sink your teeth into this post or declare “I’m out.” Because we like to follow people who are going in the same direction we were already going. Truth. It’s human nature. Bear with me though. I get defensive for my audience. I want all of us (in the fitness industry) to stop arguing about our beliefs and put YOU… dear client, customer, public, first.
The smartest way to decide what to do is NOT to choose the tools. It’s not about, “How can I use kettlebells for my workout?”
It’s not about “What do you think of rebounders?”
The question, the only question, to start with should be: what is my #1 goal? What do I need? Why is that important? What else is going on that I need to consider?
So, that’s 3 questions. You get the idea. It should not start with a protocol, or a new class, trend, or a fitness tool.
Choose your goal and define your needs. Then pick the best path to get there.
So now it’s a different conversation.
This isn’t, “What do you like? Split routine lifting weights every day or full body workouts lifting a couple times a week?”
This is, “What’s the best based on your goals, obstacles, limitations?”
Personal trainers, Medical Exercise Specialists, Certified Strength & Conditioning Coaches who work with fitness enthusiasts, clients under physician’s care, and athletes or active adults all should do this.
Full Body Less Frequent Workouts
With a full body routine twice a week (the optimal based on research I’ve covered many times in posts and podcasts) the following are true:
- Less time conflict
- Greater true recovery
- Able to increase metabolic intensity
Twice a week for beginners, older adults, and advanced older adults help avoid overtraining and allow adequate recovery for improved overall fitness. (Yes, less is more!)
Twice a week strength training and twice a week cardio (or intervals) is proven to boost higher energy expenditure overall than either one time or three times a week strength (and cardio).
Women notorious for cardio-loving should definitely do 2x a week.
If you’re more experienced don’t go thinking you should lift more. As workouts get harder they require more recovery time.
Why Not Lift Weighs Every Day: You Must Recover
I want to emphasize this for you if you’re say adding arm exercises before spring and summer sleeveless season. These exercises need to go on your strength training days. You do not want to do these on alternate days or you’re preventing recovery. If you want to focus more on your arms do a boxing workout, go swimming, use a rowing machine or do yoga with arm balances. But all strength training exercises collectively require recovery for the fitness to happen.
This is an error many women make trying to accelerate fitness. What you may be doing is accelerating breakdown of muscle. That puts you either at risk for injury or increases muscle loss, defeating your purpose.
Split Routine Concerns
A “split routine” is notoriously glorified for body shaping. It’s the equivalent of laying on the floor for all those repetitions of leg lifts then donkey kicks, then inner thighs in the 80’s.
It won’t work though, not if you miss, skip, or don’t have metabolically active hormones. (To get those metabolically active hormones you’ve got to go harder, and recover more, and ladies in menopause you have fewer metabolically active hormones right now than ever).
There’s a lower overall caloric burn. (during and after) – just because you lift weights every day doesn’t mean higher energy expenditure.
The muscle imbalances (that lead to injury) risk is greater.
You are tied to a schedule and missing a workout severely throws you off.
The “Lift Weights Every Day” Mistake You Might Make Unintentionally
You have inevitably heard more than one fitness professional say, or it’s my hope, do less cardio and more strength training. Amen!
However, you could easily misinterpret this! And many do. This doesn’t mean that if you were used to doing 3-5 cardio workouts a week you now do 3-5 strength training sessions a week! No, no, and no! The clarification is that proportionally you have a greater emphasis on strength and less emphasis on cardio. Get breathless at least twice a week doing interval training, maybe it’s three times for a short period of time. Do two strength training sessions a week. Nix the endurance training. That’s what you want. You’re doing less overall exercise, such that you have tons more energy to do life! You’re moving more, it’s called N.E.A.T. and I discussed it in You Still Got It, Girl! as being far more tied to obesity (or lack of it) than “exercise.”
Who Wants a Full Body Routine?
If you have a high body fat percent you want a full body routine.
If you are a busy woman and time is a serious obstacle you want a full body routine.
If you love a variety of activity you want a full body routine.
If you know you’re in a perfect storm (hello, menopause, Corona, insomnia, aging parents, and more) and you need to negate the negative effects of stress/cortisol while reaping the benefits of strength training on body composition, you want a full body routine.
You don’t lift weights every day? Or do you?
Don’t let group fitness classes sabotage your lift. Those end-of-class conditioning moves count too. So don’t lift weights on Monday and go to class on Tuesday and do the random conditioning at the end of class. Don’t do your weight room workout on Monday and Thursday and then do a group fitness strength training class on Wednesday and Saturday. You’d be essentially on a lift weights every day with results on no days thanks to lack of recovery.
If you choose to go to a group strength training class for your strength workouts, do the exercises to fatigue. Learn ahead of time what the sets and reps will be so you can get a better idea of how to choose your weights to reach fatigue.
If you’re close to the end of a set and not reaching fatigue slow way down and put your muscles under tension for longer period of time. Make it your workout even when you’re watching a video or in a class.
We are Stronger Together
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